WHAT IS LIBERTY AND FREEDOM? THOUGHTS ON TURNING OFF THE TELEVISION, AMERICA AND THE NATURE OF PROPAGANDA.
What is liberty and freedom? Good question. I was having a conversation in my head with my older brother Mike in Toronto this afternoon and we were discussing the virtues and vices of everyday living as they related to eating, drinking, work, conjugal relations, and how we manage our emotions such as anger, resentment, fear, anxiety and our sexuality.
I came to the conclusion in my imaginary talk that my life had improved substantially by abstaining completely from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and by cutting out about 90% of my refined sugar intake. I went on to say that one of my big solutions to maintaining this permanent lifestyle choice on a daily basis was, apart from the 12 Step program of recovery and its spiritual foundations based on faith in a Higher Power, that effectuating change in my way of thinking and doing things also played a big part in the picture.
For example, I mentioned that I had taken to turning off the TV early in the evening and either going to bed early, in the case of the winter when it gets dark early, or going for an after supper walk in the evening in the spring and summer when the weather is nicer and it stays light out later. I then went on to say that I was still a person who didn’t stay up late watching TV on any evening and that this led me to waking up early the next morning and taking an early morning walk, which, especially in spring and summer, is especially pleasant, because it starts getting light out as early as 4:30 a.m. this time of year (June) and it makes keeping in shape all that much more pleasant.
So basically, what I was getting at was that it all comes down to personal choice, or how we choose to regulate ourselves as free individuals. If we choose to stay up late and watch TV, then we expose ourselves to advertizing, a lot of which is for consumer non-durables like food and drink and we are more than likely to say to ourselves that we can finally spend some time relaxing on our own now that our spouse has gone up to bed and left us alone, so we can indulge some of our little earthly pleasures while watching TV alone and not have he or she bother us about it.
Even though I have no spouse to natter at me about my eating habits, I’ve chosen to take possession of my health outcome and to make the necessary permanent lifestyle choices in my behaviour so as to live healthily. This includes turning off the TV mostly after 7:30 p.m. after I’ve been exposed to my fill of prescription medication ads for erectile dysfunction, acid reflux, heartburn, bladder control problems, arthritis, back pain, constipation, diarrhea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and of course, lots of junk food and car ads which is what causes most of these health problems to begin with: driving everywhere in our cars and overeating the wrong foods!
So turning off the TV for me is a no brainer. I love watching Jeopardy, but after the last part of the NBC Nightly news, then Jeopardy, I’ve absorbed so much advertizing I can’t stand it anymore and have to turn off the darn idiot box. Which brings me to another point I was explaining to my brother in my imaginary conversation in my head: Even the show or movie you’re watching is essentially a ‘commercial’, in the sense that there are often ‘product placements’ in it, or messages for certain right or left wing political or social causes which the episode or movie is advocating for. Or the movie may very well be an outright piece of propaganda or recruitment, such as ‘Top Gun’, with Tom Cruise, which for all intents and purposes was a recruitment video for the United States Navy posing as a feature film.
In the wake of the release of Top Gun, enquiries by young men especially, about joining the Navy to become a fighter jet pilot, skyrocketed. Essentially, Hollywood is the unofficial propaganda arm of the American government. It doesn’t need Pravda or a Department of Propaganda like the Soviets or the Nazis had, it has Hollywood. Hollywood is both critical and elogious of America. It’s like the old expression ‘My country right or wrong’.
America is a commercial of itself and for itself. It’s a self-perpetuating, self-generating and self-fulfilling prophecy of itself and anybody and everybody who wants to be part of the commercial can partake of it. We just have to switch on our TV sets, our radios, or internet and be part of the show. Or watch it unfold before our eyes as participant or non-participant observers.
That’s why I choose to turn off the TV and take back possession and ownership of my inner space, my inner dialogue within the inner sanctum of my soul. Because the public forum is increasingly one big commoditized commercial, that true liberty and freedom, whether it be of thought, speech, movement or conscience, is increasingly being crowded out by a commercialized discourse, both consumerist, political, economic, social, cultural, even spiritual, which leaves very little room for the true freedom and liberty of humanity.
This leaves us with the post-modern predicament of, as I posited at the beginning of this essay, what is liberty and freedom? Is it something which now only exists within the innermost confines of the human soul? Has humanity colonized the temporal, public frontier or periphery to the point that humans must now delve either deep within the marrow of their spiritual essence to find true liberty and freedom, or are we also not headed for an eventual further colonization of the periphery by pushing the frontier off world?
I would imagine that this is the case, because with the construction of the International Space Station, the international community is quickly preparing itself for a manned mission to Mars, with a colonization effort not far behind and resource development not far long after that, to replenish the depleted stocks of resources which are rapidly being played out here at home.
So is it worth it shutting off the TV and listening to your inner dialogue? You bet! You might even end up going out for a power walk and ‘liberating’ yourself from the clutches of the boob tube, which, after all, simply screams for your submission by wanting you to consume more stuff. You’re not watching programs interspersed with commercials. Remember, you’re watching commercials interspersed with programs. The real goal of TV and movies is to act as a delivery gateway or platform for advertisers to sell you goods and services, the more the better, for them.
So if you really want to exercise your true liberty and freedom turn off the boob tube, the radio, the computer, and go for a walk or just tuck in for the evening. I ultimately am the master of my emotions, my body, mind and soul and what goes into and what comes out of it. And I choose to live according to God’s will. Because it is in God I trust, not the pill for heartburn or the foot powder for stinky feet. If I live according to God’s will, I’ll probably avoid the heartburn and the stinky feet, well, maybe I’ll drop into the pharmacy after Mass on Sunday for some foot powder. After all, I am a spirit in a material world. I think my brother would agree with that. Maybe I’ll talk to him for real about that next time. Talk to ya soon. God Bless.